Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Top 30 Songs of 2008 - Part Three

Ladies and gentlemen - the final furlong: the 10 Best Songs Of 2008. Enjoy them all via the magic of the youtube playlist below:

10. Vic Chesnutt, Elf Power And The Amorphous Strums: 'And How'
Vic Chesnutt teams up with Elf Power for a song that pitches the listener an absurdist curveball. An urban fairytale, complete with nursery rhyme jauntiness that leaves one just as confused about its subject matter as its possible to be. Catchy hell it is too.

9. Jonquil: 'The Weight Of Lying On Your Back'
Sometimes songs are just so perfectly conceived, so full of energy and excitement that you can't help but surf the surge of joy that wells up every time you hear them. This is one of those songs. A cracking tune and a band to watch.

8. Grouper: 'Heavy Water / I'd Rather Be Sleeping'
I'm a huge fan of delay and reverb, especially when it's so deftly controlled as it is here. In fact, this song is so beautiful and finely spun that to say any thing more would run the risk of destroying the delicate magic that holds it together.

7. High Places: ' From Stardust To Sentience'
A band well and truly of their time and all the better for it. We're now at the point where skillful practitioners of the form, like Rob Barber and Mary Pearson, can not only make the machines talk and sing but breath too.

6. One More Grain: 'Jon Hassellhoff'
I wasn't in this band when they recorded this song, but when I heard it I knew I had to join. The marriage of Daniel Patrick Quinn's thick freeform thought soup and Andrew Blick's fine eerie trumpet drone and call. The rhythm section is excellent too. It's a shame that the band is no more, but this song will always sound this way, and that's the important thing. It's pretty much the only thing I care about.

5. Sigur Ros: 'Goobledigook'
By far and away the best song that Sigur Ros have ever written, as swirling, tempestuous and invigorating as the wind that blows in off the North Atlantic to torment the Icelandic people.

4. The New Year: 'The Company I Can Get'
This was the year I woke up and realised I don't want my musical heroes to be drug-adled stargazy waifs anymore - I want them to be learned men, men who've seen life and what it's got to give. Maybe they could even be history professors, then I'd really respect them.

3. Wild Beasts: 'His Grinning Skull'
The one truly exciting British band to emerge this year, and one with more than a whiff of The Smiths stately otherworldly poise. Not that the Beasts sounded like anything other than themselves, you understand. Thrillingly original and willfully obtuse at times. I saw them live more times than I can remember and was consistently flawed. Cheers to you, chaps!

2. Animal Collective: 'Street Flash'
Their alchemistic fingerprints were everywhere this year, and not just on their own record: the 'Water Curses' EP. But it was this release that contained their finest work to date. 'Street Flash' feels like the distillation of what this band have always promised, a swirling dayglow psychedelic masterpiece that's as accessible and welcoming as it is playful and interesting.

1. Destroyer: 'Shooting Rockets (From The Desk Of Night's Ape)'
From the moment 'Trouble In Dreams' arrived in the bleak tail end of winter there was something about this song that perfectly encapsulated 2008; the financial crisis, the end of decadence, even the sickening Chinese Olympic fervour was somehow conjured. It's the sound of something huge and overblown collapsing and falling in on itself and a song so huge and nebulous that I was lost in it for weeks. A masterfully arch piece of work that turned summer breeze into an ill wind.

"It's a terrible feast we've been stuffing our faces on..."

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Top 30 Songs of 2008 - Part Two

Yet more pointless self-important compulsive listing is to be found in Part Two of Sleephouse's Top 30 songs of 2008.

Listen to or watch the lot in the youtube playlist below:

20. Mountain Goats: 'San Bernardino'
Yet more predictably awesome songwriting from John Darnielle, and the song that most consistently stopped me in my tracks from his 'Heretic Pride' record.

19. Invisible Conga People: 'Cable Dazed'
Everyone lost their shit for the Italians Do It Better label this year, but I often failed to see the attraction. This ICP 12" was the only release that really moved me. A snaky little piece of future hippy bleep that made me want to dance. In an art gallery. In slow motion.

18. Vapid: 'Do The Earthquake'
An intensely catchy 7" nugget of wax from a friend's label in Vancouver. A part Riot Grrrl, part pissed-up punk shaker. This band might be the start of something new, or they might not. Who cares? Let's all dance before "The Big One" hits and we're all sucked into the ocean.

17. The Constantines: 'Our Age'
They switched from Subpop to the lovely Arts & Crafts label but the move didn't make them miss a single step. They still make the best "proper" music going and 'Kensington Heights' was their most mature release yet. Is anyone listening though?

16. Dosh: 'If You Want To, You Have To'
I've never been an Anticon head, but the 'Wolves And Wishes' record from Dosh was a big favourite of mine this year. The intro to this makes me think of the theme to 'Chariots Of Fire' and I was often to be found sprinting to catch the 390 bus while this played in my ears and spurred me to a photo finish...

15. Chad VanGaalen: 'City Of Electric Light'
I haven't lived in Canada for almost 5 years now, but I miss it like hell sometimes. Chad VanGaalen's 'Soft Airplane' is just another reason why I wish I was back there.

14. No Kids: 'Bluster In The Air'
After previewing a few taster tracks, I truly thought this album would be an underground hit. However, after hearing the rest of the record, I can now understand why the world might not yet be ready for a librarians-only slowjam block party. I'd be there though, trying to blend in with my fake glasses, getting jiggy between the shelving.

13. Beach House: 'Gila'
Stately majestic improvements to a previously modest but perfectly respectable dwelling. Flawlessly finished throughout.

12. Fleet Foxes: 'White Winter Hymnal'
There's no need to contribute to the hyperbolic snowstorm that surrounds this record and its worthy makers. A now-classic song and perfect for this time of year too. "Keep their little heads from falling in the snow..."

11. Samamidon: 'Wedding Dress'
I spent pretty much all of 2008 thinking "This has been a crap year for music." Then, quite recently, I found this song in an end of year list and realised I was wrong. There's been some great music made in 2008. I'd just been listening to British radio.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Top 30 Songs Of 2008 - Part One

After much stalling and a hiatus that was truly epic - Sleephouse Radio emerges from the wilderness just in time for a Christmas treat - a Top 30 Songs Of 2008 rundown (in order no less).

Part One is below, Part Two comes tomorrow and Part 3 will be slipped under your tree on Christmas Eve. Enjoy...

Listen to 30 to 21 right here (in this Youtube playlist):

30. El Guincho: 'Palmitos Park'
29. Dodos: 'Fools'
2008 was the year when the Animal Collective's influence was truly felt in indie music. Plenty of releases proudly wore the eclectic tribal allegiance to their heroes on their sleeve, including these two excellent efforts from El Guincho and Dodos, the former aping the loopy party vibes of Panda Bear's 'Person Pitch' album and the latter stealing some of 'Sung Tongs'' ample acoustic joy.

28. Fennesz: 'Vacuum'
For whatever reason, I listened to a hell of a lot of ambient music this year. Most of it old stuff and a large portion of it was made by Fennesz. Truth be told I'm still getting to grips with this new work from the old master but the song functions perfectly as a deft representation of what 2008 sounded like for me most of the time.

27. Portishead: 'The Rip'
I can't say that I was looking forward to Portishead's return very much. I didn't even spend much time listening to it. A performance of this song on Jools Holland's TV show stuck in my head though. Never has restraint been such an effective tool.

26. Silver Jews: 'San Francisco B.C.'
The first in a number of songs introduced to me by the ever magnificent Chris-a-riffic and his unmissable radio show on CiTR. A picaresque adventure from Dave Berman revealing a teemingly febrile imagination lurking in the cracks of what was an ultimately disappointing Silver Jews record.

25. Those Dancing Days: 'Hitten'
A solid gold office favourite where I work. We went to see them and it was hard not to feel like a dirty old man - a total indie boy boner party (arguably the “ Pop Culture Term Of The Year” courtesy of my good friend Saelan). Question: Why are Swedish girls so fucking stylish in just that particular way?

24. Mount Eerie: 'Voice In Headphones'
Phil Elverum and Bjork are two large gravitational forces in my record collection. 'Voice In Headphones' is Phil's homage to her genius and probably his best recording in years.

23. The Sea & Cake: 'Weekend'
One of my all-time favourite bands, seemingly back on form with an all-too-short summer time blast of electro-jazz-what-have-you. It's probably best listened to while watching the song's video - a Gus Van Sant jizz flick if ever I saw one.

22. David Byrne + Brian Eno: 'Strange Overtones'
I've been going for Talking Heads in a big way in the last quarter of this year, so this album came just at the right time. I'm still not sure about some of the production, but David Byrne bucks the usual trend and to show that songcraft can indeed be something that gets better with age.

21. Neon Neon: 'Belfast'
A neat little history lesson wrapped in song. Check it out people - that's what wikipedia's there for. Gruff Rhys, and his cohort Boom Bip, really achieved something with this record. Well-read and intelligent pop that retains a playful edge. A perfect postmodern piece of work that flew mostly over the heads of the entire population.

Stay tuned for Part Two tomorrow.

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